512 Words


M. Stanley Bubien

Papers! Before me, beside me. Papers! They purported to tell the breadth of truth, revealing all to myself, my better, my Nation. But shallow strips they were, inked with words no more revealing than the pulp of Siberian woods.

"Brilliant!" Ilia Petrovich cried. "Brilliant, I tell you!"

Who was I to argue with Petrovich, our most distinguished and revered Editor of Music, Drama and Art for Pravda?

"Come now, Andrey. I find it difficult to believe you disagree."

Certainly I, Andrey Semionovich, humble critic laboring faithfully for not only my editor but Mother Russia herself, was no one. Yet I did disagree---vehemently so---with both Petrovich and these papers he presented as witness.

"Read, my good friend, read," Petrovich invited, flapping a circular it in my direction.

"'Dmitry Shostakovich. Symphony Number Five,'" I spoke aloud. And, ignoring the specified venue and performance schedule, from memory---though it also was inscribed upon that page---I gave the subtitle, "'A Soviet Artist's Reply to Just Criticism.'"

With a triumphant grin that exposed perfect teeth, Petrovich replaced the circular and bellowed, "Just criticism! Comrade Shostakovich listened, as any proper Soviet would, to our modest editorial, took to heart the brief suggestion that his music presented a grave danger to our Nation."

"'Enemy of the People Shostakovich,'" I reminded my editor. "I recall that being the title Pravda endowed upon him less than a fortnight prior."

"Certainly. But his symphony! You were there. You listened. The triumph of a Nation. The jubilation in our leaders. The rejoicing of the people! An anthem that resounds from the loins of all Mother Russia!"

"I heard the performance, yes, and that which you describe. But it struck me as forced. As if just below that joyful celebration, the baton of the oppressor beat upon the backs of the noble Russian people."

For a moment, Ilia Petrovich paused. Not in character for such a man, as so often he marched the corridors of Pravda, barking assignments to those waiting in the wings to prove themselves. His eyes seemed briefly attracted to the lampstand upon his desk, as if seeking the very light of truth. But, alas, the lamp remained extinguished.

Finger targeting my chest, his blustering laughter burst forth. "Ah ha, the watchful Soviet you have become! I have taught you well! But the lesson of experience, that remains your only shortcoming: the ability to understand when those who have strayed from their Russian heritage wish to once again taste her graces."

"I find it disturbing that he has come back into those graces quite so suddenly."

"Pah! Forgive. That is the Soviet way. Just as a shepherd who has guided one of his own back into the flock, he embraces that wayward soul's return."

"The Russian way," I repeated. To be made fools by the Enemy within our midst, one who labels us oppressor and oppressed, smearing dissention while we cheer gaily, beside ourselves in a manner singular to most village idiots.

I sighed as though my breath contained the last hope for a Soviet homeland. "I understand."

Thanks to David Pogue and Scott Speck.

Copyright ©2000 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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July, 2000
Issue #51

512 Words